After Valerie Strauss’ article in The Washington Post featuring my class: “The Flip: Turning a classroom upside down”, I got a lot of positive tweets, emails, facebook messages, etc! And I also got quite a few questions from interested teachers who weren’t quite sure where to begin…
I wanted to share a bit of an email exchange with a fellow AP Calculus teacher (her blog has some really nice reflections) because her questions were spot-on and I thought our exchange might be helpful to others.
Her questions are in red and my response in blue:
I was intrigued when I read about your experience with flipping. Thanks! I looked through one of your lessons and saw you did it via powerpoint (I think) … or am I mistaken. Yes, you’re right. The PPT is the guided notes piece I hand out… it mainly has the question written and maybe a graph or key term. I try to leave as much write space for their notetaking and my inking as possible! I liked what you had to say about the kids getting the opportunity to practice in class and have the support of others, so that they will push themselves and their understanding further. I can totally see it being worthwhile for this class.
Here are my concerns and ramblings:
* I’m teaching 4 preps next year, so I realistically don’t see myself creating the online versions of lessons where I have to have extra time to create slides. I just picture me and my colored pens writing thought out notes on topics. I guess this sort of bugs me, but sort of doesn’t because I have to start somewhere. Exactly. Do what you can do; but do it well. Quality is important in making this work. In fact, I think it might be the most important part. Quality, consistency, and clarity.
* I like your guided notes idea. I was thinking of a general handout that served for all videos, something along the lines of 1. what was/were the key ideas of this lesson 2. what skills should you be able to do 3. what suggestions do you have for improving the lesson 4. what worked in the lesson 5. what questions do you still have …. (just off the top of my head). …. But now I’ll try to process the “skeleton” notes idea hmmmmmmm. Whatever works for you. It has to be your style. I’m a firm believer in that. My handout is just the normal prep that I do. Something to think about: it’s really nice to have the problems nearly written out. Students don’t always do a good job at jotting down the WHOLE question and then their notes become useless when they go back and study. So the fact that I have all the questions written, and then they just work the problem underneath of the question, makes their notes much more organized and readable.
* I’m sure there’ll always be kids that don’t watch a video occasionally. I have to process through what I think a consequence should be and how to deal with the kid in the next class, so that they’re not a resource drain. Again, think this is individual preference. But he’s how I do it with AP… First, it depends on the unit and the week. But in general, the video must be watched and notes must be shown to me before the assignment is started. So if they come to class with no notes, they must either: 1. finish work from a previous section or 2. watch the video during class time. Students having to watch the video in class is extremely rare because they see it as a waste of time. Many students say that they make math homework the first thing they do because: 1. they know how long it will take from start to finish and 2. they want to make sure that they don’t get side-tracked and forget about it. Regarding how I assign things, typically students do not all need to be working on the same thing. Let me try to explain it like this:
|Monday – 3.1
||Tuesday – 3.1/3.2
||Wednesday – 3.2
||Thursday – Review
||Friday – Quiz
|Classwork: work on 3.1 problems (students must ALL have watched 3.1 video BEFORE class)
||Classwork: work on 3.1 and/or 3.2
||Classwork: discussions, continue 3.1 & 3.2 assignments; careful check of assignment with solutions
||Classwork: discussion-based; tie the sections together
|HW: watch 3.2 video OR finish 3.1 assignment OR a combo of the 2
||HW: continue what you haven’t done
||HW: finish 3.1 and 3.2 entirely; correct what was incorrect
|| HW: watch the next video
* I want to consistently and periodically “flip” by having them learn something via the textbook. I think this is a necessary college skill. Something I have to think about scaffolding.
* I may periodically want to flip by having them do an Internet search on the topic to learn and have a guided note type of thing with it. I like this. The idea of requiring them to be resourceful / independent in their learning.
Here are my questions:
* How long did it take you on average to make/tape the lesson? In general, I multiplied by 3. If it was a 15 minute lecture, it would take me about 45 minutes to record, edit, and get posted. This does not include the time it took to make the PPTs. But there is no need to do the editing, etc. You could just record and post as is :) The editing takes the longest.
* From something I read, you have daily classes, right? so if they didn’t finish the problems in class, did they have to for homework? Did you adjust for the next year? (I have 1.5 hour classes every other day) Hopefully the chart answered this one.
* How much of the start of class do you spend on questions about the learning and how is that structured? I barely ever start with discussion. I let them get started with one another first. I find this encourages them getting answers from their classmates. Plus, I like them to start the questions on their own before I start answering questions because a lot of time they get things sorted out naturally. I tend to just walk around and listen… and when I hear something I like or don’t like… I say “pause, let’s go to the board for a minute”
* Do you just dive into the problems/practice every class? Pretty much
* Do you have an answer bank for the problems or go over them at the end or post the answers elsewhere? I write out detailed solutions to all of the problems and give that to students. Since I’m watching them do the problems in class, I don’t worry that they’re copying. Plus, I don’t grade homework (I just look for completion), so there is no incentive to just copy. I find it very beneficial for them to troubleshoot their own problems. In college, they’ll typically have access to solutions anyway. I always say: 1. try it yourself; 2. ask a classmate; 3. consult the solutions; and then 4. ask me
* How do you deal with students that (if you have question sessions at the start) are just trying to learn from the questions and didn’t watch? Again, they must have watched the video. Looking at their notes, I can get a good sense of whether they watched it carefully or not. Sometimes I ask them to rewatch a section where their notes seem fuzzy before I will answer. We have access to computers / iPads in class, though.
* What else should I ask that I don’t know to? You did an excellent job with the questions… I don’t know :) But if things come up, please let me know! And you might want to see some of my blog posts on student-created video content. You’ll find that you have lots of extra time to do fun stuff once you’ve flipped.
Oh, and then she responded: The more I’m thinking and reading about this, the more I’m excited to try it in calculus. Your well-thought-out use of flipping was just the push I needed, so thanks.
Of course, the response made me excited and I’m still smiling as I reread it! But I never would PUSH anybody that doesn’t feel convinced flipping is the right thing to do in his/her classroom! In teaching, it’s all about following your heart and embracing the tools that fit your style the best. For me, flipping makes absolute sense and I would never go back to the traditional classroom format – at least in AP Calculus. But having said that, each year, I carefully observe my new class and change the model accordingly. No two classes are the same, so no two classes should be taught identically. That is how I see it, at least. Flipping allows me to individualize and customize, allows me to challenge and push students beyond their comfort point while still allowing me to be nurturing and supportive, and allows me to alleviate just a bit of the stress associated with AP classes.
I hope this post helped some of you thinking about flipping next year… And thank you Shireen for the great questions!